experienced cfo Archives - CFO Centre Australia

What Is a CFO…And Why Do You Need One?

What Is a CFO…And Why Do You Need One?

Many of my SME and NFP clients ask me “What is a CFO? …. And why do I need one?

What they are really asking is, “what value can a CFO bring, and what can a CFO do that my finance/accounting/book-keeping team cannot do?”.


A CFO (Chief Financial Officer) has responsibility for ALL the financial affairs of an organisation. It normally takes around 10+ years of diverse finance experience before they get their FIRST CFO role. Being the top finance person in these sizeable organisations means that they normally acquire commercial, operational and strategic experience.

The finance/accounting team or accountant/book-keeper has responsibility for the accounting system. In this context this typically involves processing invoices and transactions, making payments to suppliers and staff, compiling budgets, facilitating any audits, preparing P&Ls and balance sheets, and compliance work such as filing tax returns. It is an important and critical part of the overall financial system. It is the engine room, or the lifeblood of the financial ship, giving the ship energy, information and the ability to move. But it is not the entire financial operation. There are other parts of the metaphorical ship,e.g. navigation, steering and radar rooms.

CFO’s financial role. In addition to the accounting system, CFO may focus on:

  • Need forward looking reporting. Accounting system is generally historic (past transactions). We don’t drive our cars with eyes fixed on rear view mirror!
  • Tax planning (not filing)
  • Increased focus on cashflows rather than P&Ls (profitable businesses can go bankrupt)
  • Reporting that gives information on how different parts of the business are performing (rather than the information that ATO or auditors require)
  • Medium term business plans with milestones and KPIs (not annual budgets)

CFO’s commercially and strategic role:

  • Partnering with, and advising, the CEO/owner to drive business performance
  • Manage and mitigate risks
  • Linking financial and operational strategies
  • Evaluating and advising on projects, products, customers, pricing strategies

In a nutshell, a good CFO will have breadth at all areas of finance and accounting, but in addition have commercial and strategic acumen.


As businesses grow and become more complex it is more difficult for owner/managers to have comfort that everything is under control. No longer can they do it all, and see it all, but they don’t know how to setup systems and structures to delegate.

This is currently made more difficult by pandemics, geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruption etc.

Many good businesses fail at this early growth stage. We often call it “the first brick wall”!

It’s a vicious downward spiral. The business suffers, or worse case, runs out of cash.


An experienced CFO knows how to setup these systems, to better enable profitable, crisis free growth. They can act as advisors, partners and mentors.

So YES, you may very well need a CFO.

Your finance team can also benefit. By working with the CFO they can up-skill and broaden their experience.

Win, win!!

“But I don’t need and can’t afford a full-time CFO”.

ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, but you do need help, just not full-time help.

SOLUTION….a Part Time CFO model. You pay for the CFO only when you need them!! On demand CFOs.

Written by Gary Campbell. Gary is an experienced CFO, based in Victoria,  working for the CFO Centre Australia. He is particularly successful at profit improvement, financial turnarounds, risk management and corporate governance for SMEs and NFP. He can be contacted here

4 Signs That My Business Might Need CFO Services

4 Signs That My Business Might Need CFO Services

I have recently been talking to business owners and executives who want to build more resilience into their business. They are considering adding a part-time Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to their team.  During these discussions, two questions usually come up.  “How do I know if my business needs a CFO?” and “what does a CFO do that my Accountant can’t?”.  I would like to share some thoughts on these questions.

The primary responsibility of a CFO is to optimize the financial performance of a company. This includes its reporting and accountability, liquidity, return on investment and long-term value creation.

A CFO has a forward-looking perspective. They look at interactions of the business with outsiders, acting as a diplomat and negotiator with third parties.  Often the strategies put in place by a CFO are not short-term fixes. Some may take months or years to be fully realised.

How do I know when my business needs a CFO?

As to the question of when a business needs a CFO, the following indicators may be helpful.

  1. Internal – When information that helps in making important decisions is not timely or reliable.
  2. External – When improved respect must be gained outside the business. eg from investors, customers, suppliers, labour markets, regulators etc.
  3. Rapid Growth – Growth requires an expansion of systems, and usually additional capital to finance the growth.
  4. Exit – When a business is preparing for a merger, acquisition, or business sale.

So, when the business is at the stage of increased external engagement and growth, a CFO can add significant value.

What does a CFO do that my Accountant can’t?

A CFO always works closely with the external Accountant. Having an accounting background, the CFO is well placed to understand the role of the external Accountant.  The external Accountant’s role is mostly concerned with compliance and transactional advice.  They work from their own offices and will normally attend the client’s business premises periodically.  External Accountants often have the skill sets to provide additional services. However, they are usually not involved closely enough in the running of the business to make this a sensible use of their time.

Functions such as the below will either fall to the CFO or some other suitably qualified resource will need to be allocated:

  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Cash flow management
  • Financial reporting
  • Scenario planning
  • Internal controls
  • Insurance
  • Bench-marking and key performance indicators
  • Incentive schemes
  • Management of key suppliers
  • Accounting policies

If the business doesn’t have a CFO, the CEO or one of the Directors have to take ownership of these functions.  This means they are taken away from other important leadership and governance roles. They also may not have the depth of experience in the technicalities of financial transactions to handle these things well.

Some of the common misconceptions about a CFO

There are some common misconceptions about a CFO that are worth discussing.

The first misconception is that a CFO may have an excessive focus on short-term financial results ie this year’s profit.  Financial success of the business is undoubtedly the objective of any CFO. This, however, does not mean sacrificing long-term value creation for short-term results.  A CFO is interested in the success of all business stakeholders. This includes owners, employees, customers, suppliers, financiers etc. All stakeholders must be rewarded to ensure the long-term health of the business.

CFOs are therefore, likely to be just as interested in the business strategy as they are in the profit and loss statement. In addition, culture, reputation, governance, and risk management will be on their radar. A good CFO recognises that sustainable financial success is only achieved when all aspects of a business are working well.

Another commonly held misconception is that CFOs think in “black and white”. That therefore, they may not be comfortable with the various shades of grey that business and life deal up.  Whilst that may be true for some aspects of a CFO’s decision-making, good CFOs will look closely at the underlying issue.  For example, CFOs are often involved in analysing the performance of a business or even individuals.  In understanding performance, a CFO will often consider a range of underlying factors. This can include; roles and responsibilities, resources, delegated authorities, remuneration and incentive systems, behavioural assessments, management approach, and organisational structure and culture.  CFOs are first and foremost experienced corporate managers. They understand that people are usually the most critical resource in businesses. From experience, most CFOs are skilled at dealing with people issues sensitively.

If you’d like a confidential discussion about whether a part-time CFO could be right for your business, please contact us.

Allan Robb, CFO at the CFO Centre

Why Every Business Benefits From a Part-Time CFO

Why Every Business Benefits From a Part-Time CFO

A typical company finance function can be divided up into 3 areas. However, many businesses believe the finance role is principally to produce accurate accounts.

Ask any bank manager and he or she will tell you the bank’s most problematic customers are those who don’t truly understand what is going on in their business. Some customers ask for finance or expect to maintain an overdraft, yet cannot even produce up to date accounts.

Most SME business owners want to focus on the business and not the numbers. The business is their baby and they want it to be their sole focus – not financials!

The areas which the business owner will seek help in first will be determined by the focus and needs of the business whether in sales, operations, admin or finance. If we look at the finance function, it is traditional to break it down into 3 roles:

3 roles of the finance function

1. Financial direction – the CFO

2. Financial control – the Accountant

3. Book-keeping/basic accounting/ AP & AR – the Finance Department Staff

Many business owners think the finance role is transactional in nature and so concentrate just on producing accurate accounting records. This is essential in itself, but not enough to manage and develop a growing business. When focusing on the CFO role specifically then, what are the key tasks of this role and what does the CFO bring that the other finance roles do not?  Why would you need a CFO?

I suggest the following four main areas of expertise and input:


Co-ordinating and developing long term business plans; defining the implementation timetables; assessing the risks involved and seeking the funding required to deliver the proposed plans.


Developing internal controls; managing and developing the reports needed to run the business; improving profit levels; managing cash flows. Does the business owner fully understand the profitability of each product / service they offer? Often the answer is no.


Instilling a financial approach and mind-set throughout the organisation to help other ​parts of the business perform better ​


Tax planning and legal issues; compliance issues; managing external relationships; outsourcing relationships.

The modern CFO needs to be able to develop all this and more. There are many other considerations that go beyond the pure “job description” above.

What’s the difference between an accountant and a CFO?

A CFO looks forward and financial accounting looks backwards; it’s where your business is going that matters as the past cannot be changed – but learnings can be made and changes made so that past mistakes not repeated.

Experience: it is important that a CFO has a wide range of commercial experience, not just financial. Good CFOs do not learn their skills from textbooks alone, in fact they learn very little from textbooks – they learn by doing. Commercial experience means leaving their offices and talking to customers and engaging with the production and operations teams.

Personality: a CFO must be able to communicate at all levels be it the production teams, sales teams, marketing teams to board level. The CFO must be able to relate to people on all levels of a business.

The CFO Centre provides high calibre CFOs to SMEs on a part time basis, allowing organisations to benefit from the expertise of a highly experienced Chief Financial Officer without incurring the expense of hiring someone full-time. We don’t tie you in with a long term contract.

Whether the business in in fast growth mode and needs control or has hit a brick wall and needs survival solutions to get through a tough patch, our CFO’s can cope with both ends of the spectrum.

For more information about the CFO Centre’s service see How it Works  or call us on 1300 447 740


Article written by Peter O’Sullivan – Regional Director – CFO Centre, Victoria